Federal government officials who go to work for tribes will no longer be able to lobby their former employer for a year under a bill introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) on Monday.
As chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, McCain has raised several concerns about the lobbying practices of tribes and their backers. During hearings on the Jack Abramoff scandal
and on the $19 billion Indian gaming industry, he said he would seek ways to reform the system to prevent "abuses" and fraud.
S.1312, the Reducing Conflicts of Interests in the Representation of Indian Tribes Act,
aims to close what McCain called the "revolving door" in Washington.
He said ex-government employees are exploiting a loophole in
federal law that allows them to lobby federal agencies on
behalf of tribes without being subject to the cooling-off period
imposed on non-tribal lobbyists.
"Current law exempts from the conflicts laws former federal
officers and employees who 'are employed by Indian tribes,'
thus permitting these former Federal employees immediately to
lobby the departments they just left and act as agents and
attorneys for the tribes," McCain said in his statement accompanying the bill.
"Former federal employees who leave the federal government and
go to work as outside lawyers or lobbyists for Indian tribes,
however, would, under the legislation I am introducing today,
be subject to the same conflicts of interest restraints that
apply to other former federal employees who work for other entities,"
The bill would apply to former Bush administration official
Aurene Martin, the former principal deputy assistant secretary.
She left the Bureau of Indian Affairs in September 2004 and immediately
went to work for a large law and lobbying firm in Washington, where
she represents tribes with matters before the agency.
The bill would also appear to apply to former Clinton administration official
Kevin Gover, who left his job as
assistant secretary in January 2001 to work for a law and lobbying firm.
Although he no longer works at the firm, he is employed as a consultant
by a tribe that he placed on the federally recognized list in one
his final actions.
But, as McCain clarified, former federal employees who go to work
for tribes "pursuant to self-determination contracts or self-governance
compacts" would not be affected. He said they would continued to be
covered by existing law.
"The exception that was made to the conflict laws appeared to
have been made in response to the recognition that when Indian
tribes took on the responsibility of operating programs traditionally
fulfilled by the federal government, they would need experienced
individuals to fulfill contracted or compacted functions," McCain said.
In recent years,
Interior Department Inspector General Earl E. Devaney has investigated
contacts former employees made with the BIA.
While he hasn't uncovered anything illegal,
he said he is concerned that lobbying will taint the agency's processes.
"My greatest fear is not that the integrity or accountability
of Indian gaming will be compromised from inside the actual
casinos, but rather by the horde of paid management advisors,
consultants, lobbyists and financiers flocking to get a piece
of the enormous amount of revenues being generated by Indian
gaming," he said at an April 27 hearing.
But tribal lobbying isn't the only concern facing
Devaney. His office investigated contacts that former
Bush administration officials J. Steven Griles and
Bill Myers, two former lobbyists for the mining, grazing
and cattle industries, had with former clients or people connected
to their clients. Devaney reported no wrongdoing in both cases.
Yet Devaney's office is now including in its investigations
"an inquiry into any lobbying or other financial influences that might bear on
the issue or program at hand," deputy Mary L. Kendall said
at a May 11 hearing.
McCain's bill was referred to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee,
where it will be considered at a business meeting tomorrow.
The substance of the bill removes
subsection (j) of Section 104 of the Indian
Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (25 U.S.C. 450i)
and replaces it with:
Notwithstanding sections 205 and 207 of title 18, United States Code, an officer
or employee of the United States assigned to an Indian tribe under section 3372
of title 5, United States Code, or section 2072 of the Revised Statutes (25
U.S.C. 48), or an individual that was formerly an officer or employee of the
United States and who is an employee of an Indian tribe employed to perform
services pursuant to self-governance contracts or compacts under this Act that
the individual formerly performed for the United States, may communicate with
and appear before any department, agency, court, or commission on behalf of the
Indian tribe with respect to any matter relating to the contract or compact,
including any matter in which the United States is a party or has a direct and
Subsection (j) currently reads:
Anything in sections 205 and 207 of title 18 to the contrary
notwithstanding, officers and employees of the United States
assigned to an Indian tribe as authorized under section 3372 of
title 5, or section 48 of this title and former officers and
employees of the United States employed by Indian tribes may act as
agents or attorneys for or appear on behalf of such tribes in
connection with any matter pending before any
department, agency, court, or commission, including any matter in
which the United States is a party or has a direct and substantial
interest: Provided, That each such officer or employee or former
officer or employee must advise in writing the head of the
department, agency, court, or commission with which he is dealing
or appearing on behalf of the tribe of any personal and substantial
involvement he may have had as an officer or employee of the United
States in connection with the matter involved.
Get the Bill:
Reducing Conflicts of Interests in the Representation of Indian Tribes Act
Statement on Bill:
Sen. John McCain on S.1312
(June 27, 2005)